Slow boat from Thailand to Laos
A very famous way between travelers to go from Thailand to Laos is through a wooden “boat” or “large speedboat”. As anticipated in the title, don’t expect any luxuries and be ready to spend several hours on the slow-moving boat. There’s also the “fast boat”, which as its name indicates picks up the speed. Actually, your path can start in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai or Pai in Thailand, where most travelers begin their journeys. As for me, I set off from Chiang Mai. I went in mini bus up to Chiang Khong, a city located on the border with Laos. We spent the night there. It’s approximately six hours. It’s a small city, almost a town, but with lodging for every category. The day I went turned out to be Chinese New Year, so there were some celebrations. The next morning, we took a bus to the border. We had to go through immigration. They stamp your passport with your exit from Thailand and after you take another bus to cross to Laos, you get your entry stamp too. This “between borders” bus costs ฿ 20 —USD 0,50.
The entry system in Laos is what I call “non-technologic”: you complete an entry form, leave it on a window with your passport and a picture, and then wait until you are called from another window; you pay and get your passport with the visa. Oh, and there’s no sign telling you that your documents are ready. Either one of the employees, through the window, displays the passport or one of the tourists self-proclaims itself spokesman —or spokeswoman—and yells out the names until yours comes up. Once in Laos, they take you on a mini bus to catch the first boat, whose trip lasts six or seven hours to Pack Beng, a town where the locals learn English from the visiting tourists they get every day. There, it’s time to look for a place for spending the night, which should be around USD 10 for a double room.
Not to worry, though, as soon as you set foot in Pack Beng, lots of locals will approach you to offer lodging and even the “tuc-tuc”, a very popular Asian means of transport, to get you there. The town has its vibe, surrounded by mountains and at the shore of the Mekong river. It has several restaurants and bakeries for having breakfast the next morning. I really liked it! So, after spending the night, I boarded the 8-hour boat that anchored in Luang Prabang, our final destination. While none of the boats display any luxury, as stated before, the atmosphere generated by the passengers it’s usually very pleasant. For these three days and two nights, with a hotel night included, since I only had to pay for the second, adding a breakfast, lunch and dinner and with all transportations considered, I ended up paying USD 50. The journey can also be made the other way around: from Luang Prabang to Thailand. Many drink booze, some other chat… everything is done in a resting atmosphere where you can appreciate the Mekong, the fifth largest river of Asia, in its full glory. I really recommend it!